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Persona 5 Strikers – First Impressions

Persona 5 Strikers is a sequel to the impossibly popular Persona 5 from Atlus. This is a direct story sequel with a major shift in gameplay genre. Released on the 23rd of February in the West, more than a year after its initial Japanese release. Persona 5 Strikers can be found on the Switch, PS4, and PC.

Now, for anyone that pays attention it may be surprising that after nearly a week this is a first impression. Instead of a full review, especially with how fast I normally finish games, the reason will become apparent as my impressions are given. Without further ado, let us be rocking mit rolling.

What’s the message?

Set after the events of Persona 5, Joker returns to hang out with the other Phantom Thieves during summer break. As you’d expect, things don’t take long before they go wrong. A new form of cognition is quickly discovered called Jails. These are quite similar to the Palaces of Persona 5 only they’re powered by the public’s desires. Each is ruled by a Monarch, the person that is utilizing the desire.

Still using a keyword system, only this time talking to the new Siri in your phone called EMMA, you are taken to the Jail. These seem to be more lightly corrupted versions of the actual world, instead of a castle or a floating bank. After Joker, Skull, and Mona’s first escapade in the Jail, they meet another AI. This one is called Sophia and basically manifests a Persona of their own before joining the Phantom Thieves.

persona 5 strikers beneath the mask

Between you and with the help of your new member, you start collecting items of power from the Monarch. Trying to weaken their hold on the public at large.

Honestly, that’s just about as far as I’ve gotten.Just working my way through the first dungeon. Honestly the setup is fantastic, with interesting new characters and concepts already. 

Whatcha doin’?

Here’s the biggest departure from the previous entry, Persona 5 Strikers is hybrid musou. Taking the hack and slash style of other Warriors games with some Persona style turn-based combat. It’s honestly a really interesting style of combat, I’m not an avid Warriors player but it seems wholly unique.

Incorporating shadows, Personas, and sneaking mechanics from Persona 5, it does add a lot of verticality, with climbing up buildings or getting on weird floats. All of this can be used in tandem with the tried and trusted stealth.

persona 5 strikers Jail

Combat?

Then onto the actual combat. It’s a typical hack and slash Warriors affair. There will be a group(s) of enemies that you’ll have to mash your way through. Each character has a standard attack, with long combos, and a special attack. Each character also gets their gun as well, which can be aimed and fired in combat. You will only have a set amount of ammo you can use before it needs to be recharged.

Specials can be like Joker’s pistol for example. You can combine both standard and special attacks into extra combos, some of which will use your Persona’s magic, without using SP.

Nifty segway into the Personas. Everyone has ’em, like you’d expect. Using a Persona becomes similar to Persona 5, where you open a menu with the list of skills that Persona knows. Joker can scroll through all Personas he currently has inside him, and when you bring up this menu time basically halts; giving you ample time to choose the right move. Each move has an area of effect that you can see and move.

Then there are your typical RPG mechanics. Items, money, and experience after battle, with leveling and new skills. There’s a chance during combat that a mask will be dropped so Joker can collect it for a new Persona. When he already has it he gets Persona points instead, which he now uses to level up his equipped Persona.

persona 5 strikers Sophia

What do I like?

First of all, the music is impeccable as you’d expect from Persona. Some of the tracks I’ve heard so far are just fantastic. The style has also carried over from the main series, again, as you’d expect.

I appreciate the inclusion of the different Persona from 5 and being able to collect them with Joker. This follows into the same kinds of weaknesses and attributes from the previous game. I really like this, it means that Personas still play a pretty large part of the varied gameplay.

Next is the new Bond system. Here you work, fight, and explore with your team and you build up your ‘bond level’. This gets you basically skill points that you can spend on buffs like regaining HP and SP after a fight, or better prices at the shop, and more HP or SP. This is a really cool feature. 

There’s also the ability to change between each of the Phantom Thieves in your team during combat. So going straight to Panther, to Skull, and back to Joker with a press of a button. Each character has their own weapons still but also their own movesets and combos. Not to mention Persona, with each of them having their original Persona and Joker still being the wildcard.

persona 5 strikers bond

Next..?

There is already a decent amount of effort to incorporate “newer” technology into the story. For Persona 5 Strikers that means using AI and AI assistant apps. I slammed Final Fantasy 7 Remake in my review for being so lazy in this regard. I think I’ve definitely complained about laziness in other games too but not for Persona 5 Strikers. Genuinely a seamless addition and they make fantastic use of it for the story. Kudos.

One final like, it’s a small one but it’s on the Switch. I still think the Switch is the king of JRPGs, there’s basically no question. So to finally play something Persona on there is phenomenal. Still waiting for Shin Megami Tensei this year but maybe some more Switch Persona on the horizon.

Anything wrong?

I’m gonna try to not be too harsh here as I really like Persona and Atlus. So here goes.

I really don’t like Warriors games, they just do not vibe with me at all. I’m sure I’m not the only one either. Persona 5 had a damn near perfect turn-based combat system. It was varied, balanced, and just fun. Persona 5 Strikers is not that.

persona 5 strikers surprise

Firstly, due to it being a Warriors style game, gone are the turns and the more thoughtful fights. Instead, you interact with a shadow which spawns into potentially dozens of shadows and Persona. Then it becomes your standard button mash to kill everything type affair. 

There are semi-breaks when you try to use skills with your different Persona. This doesn’t feel as good as in Persona 5 though either. I’ll try to explain this adequately, so bare with me. It suddenly becomes harder to manage your HP and SP, whilst also being harder to adequately heal. Mostly because you now control one character at a time and the others are now AI. This healing issue then makes the physical and gun skills less useful as you’re always too low on health. Then because your SP is always ends up very low, it means that you get less magic skills to use. So you’re back to just mashing the one/two buttons to attack the rest of the time. Even when you switch between characters, the same issue comes up again.

Then you get to a boss, with no supplies, all possible party members are low on HP and SP and you die. Don’t get me wrong, similar happens in Persona 5 but it feels better because the progress is better managed in a dungeon.

What else?

I praised it above, as a good feature and it is good, it’s just not better than what it replaced. That being the new Bond system. Getting all of the buffs and bonuses is undoubtedly good, no complaints there. It’s just significantly worse than the Confident system from Persona 5. I get that you’re already all best friends and that but it just seems much more random and shallow. Persona Confidants are one of the biggest strengths of the entire series. Each person has a strong and deep story arc that ends with them being much stronger. At this point, Persona 5 Strikers is missing any of that depth.

persona 5 strikers step on me

Leveling up Joker’s different Persona has changed. Now you have to get a different kind of points, different from experience or money and things. Then spend them in the Velvet room, which means you need a checkpoint to do it. They already had a similar mechanic in the main game but you could still strengthen your Persona in combat. I don’t know why they would just remove that and I don’t like this as a substitute.

What does it all mean?

Following my impressions of the Hyrule Warriors demo, which I didn’t buy, Persona 5 Strikers is not for me. The musou gameplay is just not good in my mind and not even Persona could save it. This is definitely, for me, the best example of a Warriors game I’ve ever played. Unfortunately for Persona 5 Strikers it’s saved by everything that is Persona 5 and not Strikers.

The story is well done, it’s unique and actually adds substance to the world. The dialogue and voice acting are still near perfect and it has unparalleled style. Not to mention even more tracks that are better than just about anything else out there. This is all standard Persona though, the main gimmick of Persona 5 Strikers is the combat. The bit that I really just don’t like at all.

The irony is that Persona 5 Strikers makes you feel more like a Phantom Thief than ever before. If you’re a fan of Persona and the Warriors series, this might be the best game ever made for you. If, like me, you pretty much can’t stand musou games, then I cannot recommend this game at all. I’m sure I’ll get through it eventually but it’ll take a while and I won’t enjoy the gameplay at all.

Persona 5 Strikers – First Impressions.
Written by Kyle Munn.

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